At Comic-Con International in San Diego, the women and men behind Lara Croft and the "Tomb Raider" franchise shared some insight into what goes on in the mind of Lara, why she's different now, and how technology has allowed them to show the world of "Tomb Raider" in a way that's never been possible before.
Moderated by video game journalist Geoff Keighley, the panel was composed of Crystal Dynamics team members including brand manager Carl Stuart, narrative designer John Stafford, lead writer Rhianna Pratchett and the newest actress portraying Lara Croft, Camilla Luddington.
Stuart and Stafford compared the "Tomb Raider" franchise to James Bond and Batman. "'Tomb Raider' is in a position where it can re-imagine itself. We looked at the video game industry and we felt that 'Tomb Raider' is in a position where very few other franchises are. They can re-imagine themselves." said Stuart. "We wanted to put our mark on it. We wanted to do something similar to what's going on in 'Batman Begins' for instance. You keep the foundation of the franchise but you re-imagine so it's sort of familiar yet different. We've all played the game, we've all seen the game, we all feel like it's a 'Tomb Raider' game -- but it's one for the ages.
After a brief introduction the panel began answering questions from fans. One of the first questions asked by a fan was whether Luddington would return to play the role in the future.
"I think it can be safe to say that if we do another 'Tomb Raider' that it will be Camilla. We made a decision that we want to take Lara on this journey and wherever it take her over time we would be honored," Stuart answered.
Asked about the most important thing Lara will learn in "Tomb Raider" Pratchett said, "Lara finding out what she's capable of. It's something that she wrestles with throughout the game. The emotional journey she goes on is every bit as traumatic as what's going on on the outside," the writer said. "It's not a story about being female, it's a story about being human. It's coming to realize there's darkness in life and within us. The darkness may be scary and you may have to cross lines you never thought you were capable of but that darkness can save your life."
Another fan asked Luddington what she brings to the character. "I think just the way that Lara is written it's already different. Because of the film is obviously based on previous games. Lara feels pain, she feels fear and she doesn't know if she can kill at points," Luddington said. "I think that just that element will make it really different from the other games and films. And, it's not just through the writing, I think that I give a different portrayal of her."
More than just providing Lara's voice in the game, Luddington is the first actress to lend her physical talents to the Tomb Raider as well, all via the magic of motion capture. "We don't have just motion capture, we have performance capture. That format allows us to bring the skills that Camilla has to the scene," Stafford said. "When she cries or when she has to do something for the first time we don't only capture the data from her body movements but we also catch the data from her voice, the lip-syncing, the facial movements. So what Camilla has brought so far, certainly in our eyes, is that we're able to bring a scene to life in a way we never have been able to before.
"In the past we would have animation done and we would bring in a voice-actress into a booth and say reenact that line. And it's very hard to bring emotion but Camilla has jumped straight in and donned the suit and made sure that she brings the role to life," Stafford continued. "By doing that we're also allowed to bring all the other actors and actresses into the same scene. So these are things we've never seen, that we've never had in a game before and they allow us to bring Lara and the story to life."
Luddington was then asked if she looked to previous iterations of Lara in preparation for her role. "I think that Lara is part of pop culture so probably everyone is familiar with her. Of course I saw the films. My older brother had the games when I was younger and whenever I could get a go on it I would play horribly; I probably killed her more times that anybody," the actress said. "So I was familiar with it and I do know some of the other voice actresses but because this is a re-imagining of her I felt a lot more artistic license to run with her and create her the way I wanted to."
Luddington attempted to craft the proper new take for Lara by brining some of her personality to the character. "I think that sometimes I can have a short fuse in real life and I think of my own frustrations when Lara is trying to have a voice, especially in the early stages of the game, and I feel like she's feeling underestimated. I think I've felt that way before in my own life at points.
"I think I'm naturally adventurous too. 'Goonies' was my favorite ever, 'Aliens' was my favorite movie. I wanted to be Ripley," Luddington continued. "I think those elements of my own personality also came out when I was portraying Lara. I would like to think that I'm naturally adventurous and ambitious."
Keighley, known for his behind-the-scenes documentary series "Final Hours, is working on a "Tomb Raider" edition which focuses on the last months of development on "Tomb Raider," to be hosted by Zachary Levi ("Chuck"). A clip was shown to the crowd and was met with thunderous applause. The completed "Final Hours" will be made available March 2013 alongside the final game.
As the panel concluded a mass of fans rushed toward the dais for a chance to meet the crew behind "Tomb Raider."
The new "Tomb Raider" is slated for release March 5, 2013.